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Chibok girls as game changer

By Ochereome Nnanna
IT is said he who wears the shoe knows where it pinches. Northern Nigeria, especially the Muslim zone of the North, knows where the shoe of Islamic terror and insurgency is pinching. That much is pretty obvious.

If you live in Lagos you will notice an uncommonly large number of newly arrived youth of Arewa stock in town. It is like that in most cities in the South. They squeeze in with their kinsmen who are maigads or security watchmen at night. In the morning they disperse in search of menial work. Their presence is making a lot of people nervous because you never know who among them could be Boko Haram members.

The economy of many parts of Northern Nigeria is in shambles. If not for the oil money from the bowels of Niger Delta being used to feed this nation through the monthly federal allocation, some of the state governments – particularly those of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe – would have shut down. Ironically, it is these same states that appear to have proved most difficult – even intransigent – in the war on terror.

In their determination to heap the blame for the insurgency on the Federal Government, and particularly on President Goodluck Jonathan, and buoyed by the support of reactionary groups like the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, they are not proactive in the war on terror.

They are simply not cooperating. The impression they create is that of protectiveness towards the terrorists.

If you watch very carefully, you will find that it is actually in the South and Abuja that the #Bring Back Our Girls protests, which are sweeping the entire globe, are taking place. There was a tepid outing somewhere in Kaduna last week. Why should the South be more concerned than the North for the release of these girls?

Why should the support for the speedy end of terrorism in the North be a primary concern in the South while governments and leaders in the North where the terrorists are devastating appear unruffled, except to look for opportunities to make the Presidency seem a failure in the war against terror?

The only convincing effort has been coming from the Civilian JTF in Borno State, but even that has been largely grounded as a result of Boko Haram’s sudden empowerment from heaven-knows-where, such that it now has armoured personnel carriers. Why is it only Southerners that demonstrate love for Nigeria while many Northerners only talk about “the interests of the North”? Is it not true that some Northern leaders see Nigeria only as a meal ticket for the North?

It was not until the world out there started getting into the effort to free the abducted Chibok schoolgirls that some prominent leaders in the North started speaking out against Boko Haram as they ought to have done long ago. Muhammadu Buhari danced ajasco around the issue until only last month. The joke was lost on many people when President Jonathan commended Buhari for his strongly worded condemnation of Boko Haram after appearing to derive some secret delight in the bloodshed the Islamists were perpetrating, perhaps on the foolish calculation that the terrorists will weaken the President and present power to him and the North on a platter of gold come 2015.

The truth is that the abduction of those girls will turn out to be a game changer, both for Boko Haram and the political class using it as a tool in their power play. No matter what happens to those girls, Boko Haram leaders and their hireling fighters have bitten off more than they can chew. Their days are numbered because the world has come together against them.

It is in the interest of the political class that the girls are recovered from these devils as soon as possible. The damage might already have been done, but concerted efforts at damage control can still be syndicated with specialists from around the world once they are freed, but only if done as soon as possible. Delay is dangerous.

A screengrab taken on May 12, 2014, from a video of Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram obtained by AFP shows girls, wearing the full-length hijab and praying in an undisclosed rural location. Boko Haram released a new video on claiming to show the missing Nigerian schoolgirls, alleging they had converted to Islam and would not be released until all militant prisoners were freed. A total of 276 girls were abducted on April 14 from the northeastern town of Chibok, in Borno state, which has a sizeable Christian community. Some 223 are still missing.
A screengrab taken on May 12, 2014, from a video of Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram obtained by AFP shows girls, wearing the full-length hijab and praying in an undisclosed rural location. Boko Haram released a new video on claiming to show the missing Nigerian schoolgirls, alleging they had converted to Islam and would not be released until all militant prisoners were freed. A total of 276 girls were abducted on April 14 from the northeastern town of Chibok, in Borno state, which has a sizeable Christian community. Some 223 are still missing.

I do not see President Goodluck Jonathan coming forward to declare his intention to run for a second term in 2015 unless the standoff is resolved victoriously for Nigeria and mankind. He has told us of his sleepless nights since the girls were abducted. Why should he sleep when he knows that his political ambition could well be truncated by the inability of the state to rescue our girls from captivity?

The same thing applies to the main opposition party, the All Progressives Congress, APC. Until the girls are found, I do not see any of those jostling for presidency among its ranks coming forward to declare his candidacy. The same moral shackles that hold President Jonathan from moving forward in his aspiration is also holding them down. The two major political parties are in this political hellhole together. In particular, the governors of Borno and Yobe cannot declare for second term while the Chibok abductions have not been successfully resolved. Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State is on his way home, having completed his two terms. It is now in the interest of the PDP and APC to join hands and bring back our girls or no deal.

The Northern Governors Forum, NGF, has, happily enough, told us that the Boko Haram chapter should be closed within 90 days. That is highly reassuring. I am firmly of the belief that if the NGF and Northern leaders bring out their patriotic minds Boko Haram will be defeated pronto. If they stop giving them money, either in unabashed support to make governance difficult for President Jonathan, or buy protection from being attacked, the insurgency will weaken. If they volunteer credible information that will help to solve the problem, it will be solved within record time. It will make the armed forces to ride smoothly, while the assistance from world powers will be an icing on the cake.

The power of Boko Haram is in the complicity and support of Northern leaders and politicians. Take it away, and Boko Haram is just another band of miserable wretches that can be resolved through mere police action, as Yakubu Gowon would say.


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